HTC and T-Mobile first introduced the HTC Sensation 4G back in April, and we were instantly enamored of the Android smartphone. Not only did HTC give the phone a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 4.3-inch qHD display, but it enhanced the user experience by adding some great features to the HTC Sense user interface. We've had to wait two long months since that fateful day in April, but T-Mobile customers will finally get the chance to get their hands on the HTC Sensation 4G starting June 15 for a price of $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. Needless to say, we were excited to get our own hands on the Sensation again, and we're happy to say it does not disappoint.
What can we say; it was love at first sight. The HTC Sensation 4G is one of the best-looking and most well-built smartphones we've seen to date, and it's not because of any flashy gimmicks, but simply a solid and sleek design. Like a number of HTC handsets, the Sensation 4G has a unibody aluminum chassis with a streamlined and high-quality construction. What's most notable about the phone, though, is how sleek it is for a 4.3-inch touch-screen device.
Unlike some 4.3-inch-screen smartphones, such as the HTC ThunderBolt and Samsung Droid Charge, the Sensation doesn't feel heavy or bulky. It's similar in size and weight (5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick, and 5.2 ounces) to the T-Mobile G2x and Samsung Galaxy S II, but even so, the Sensation has a more premium feel and its tapered edges make it more comfortable in the hand.
Part of what allows the smartphone to be so slim is the 16:9 qHD (540x960-pixel resolution) Super LCD touch screen. The display features a contour design that gives it a concave shape, making it comfortable when held against the cheek, and also prevents scratches when the phone is placed screen-side down. More importantly, it looks gorgeous. Text and images look sharp with vivid colors, and we were still able to read the screen outdoors. The iPhone's Retina display and Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus touch screen offer finer detail and better color saturation, but the Sensation's display is still no slouch, and we suspect most people will have no objections to it.
The touch screen was responsive, as we were able to easily navigate the menus and launch applications with a single tap. Scrolling through lists and using the pinch-to-zoom feature was also smooth. For text entry, you only get the choice of HTC's supplied virtual keyboards--full QWERTY, phone, or compact--but no standard Android keyboard or Swype. That said, while it's not immediately obvious, the HTC keyboard has a feature called Trace that acts very much like Swype where you can drag your finger from letter to letter. As with Swype, we found Trace to be faster and easier and even more accurate than pecking away at each key.
Below the display, you'll find touch-sensitive buttons for the home, menu, back, and search functions. The left side holds a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port, while the right side is devoid of controls. The top of the device houses a 3.5mm headphone jack and power button, and just below it, on the upper right side of the screen, is the front-facing camera. The 8-megapixel and dual LED flash are located on back.
T-Mobile packages the HTC Sensation 4G with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a preinstalled 8GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.
Software and user interface
The HTC Sensation 4G ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and the latest version of HTC Sense. Sense has always been our favorite custom skin for Android, both for its aesthetics and useful functions, and now HTC has made it even better.
A lot of the new features of Sense can be found on the lock screen. Aside from a display of the date, time, and other vital statistics, you now get shortcuts to four of your favorite apps. By default, the shortcuts are set to phone, mail, camera, and messages, but you can change them in the phone's Personalize menu. To open a specific app, you can simply drag the icon to the ring at the bottom of the screen, instead of having to unlock the phone first.
In addition to the shortcuts, HTC also wanted the lock screen to showcase more user content, so now you can personalize the screen with your photo gallery, friend stream, favorite stocks, or weather. The content then floats by or flies by (depending on which option you choose) onscreen.
Once you unlock the phone, you'll find even more enhancements. For example, much like the HTC Flyer, the Sensation features a 3D carousel so you can more quickly flip through the seven home screens, rather than swiping through each panel. (Of course, you can also use the Leap screen function.) The pull-down notification tray has a second tab called Quick Settings where you can manage your wireless connections and access other settings. The mail app and widget now give you a preview of each message, and the photo gallery widget features a flip-board effect.
There's much more to HTC Sense, but for the sake of brevity we won't detail every new feature here. That said, we found the new functionality to be both useful and well integrated into the system, making for a great user experience on the Sensation 4G.